Thursday, November 21, 2013

Melancholy and the Art of Distraction - by Stephanne

Today was supposed to be fun.  Sort of... fulfilling.  I woke at 6 a.m. with the intent of having a good day, one full of hiking in a splendid area and being all "official intern" collecting and analyzing bear bait stations by myself.  I was ok at first; my daughter and my pup were going with me so it was a casual, fun day.  I had my maps, I had the GPS, I had the ziplock baggies to seal in the "stanky" that I was off to collect.  It was supposed to be fun.  We were on the road by 7 and the weather was perfect (with a threat of uck that held off).  However, about an hour up the road, in a little city called Rockwood... it dawned me:  

This was the last day of the bear study for me and I was going it "alone"... and that would be the end of it for me... the last official tie... complete.  

I tried to shake off the feeling of melancholy that was looming but... maybe because it has just been a really rough week, it wasn't budging.  It actually got worse as I went.  We hit the trail around 9 and huffed it up the mountain, agreeing that I'd gather the last bait station first to try and fend off the odors.  On the way up, just before getting to the top bait station, there were hog tracks - fresh - all in the trail.  I pointed out an older deer track to Jess and explained to her how to tell the difference.  An hour later the station gathered, we were already headed back down.

When we were about halfway back Jess and Bandit took off, opting to follow the creekline which was far more scenic.  I don't know why, but I didn't have the urge to follow.  I stayed on the trail, ensuring I didn't get too far ahead of them every now and again (keen ears sure help) and collected station 3.  I waited there... looking around at the lush and moss-covered surroundings with more sadness than awe... for Jess and Bandit to catch up.  We again parted ways, me going back to the trail while they stuck to the creekline.
At station 2 they were waiting on me, the creek was the more direct route this time and I *may* have been distracted by three butterflies that created their kaleidoscope around me as I walked.  I analyzed the
area and removed the bait and Jess asked if we could stop there to eat.  Sure.  Why not. Why was I in such a hurry to get off the mountain?  We ate in virtual silence as Bandit played in the water. I cleaned up our mess and told Jess to head back to the trail with me since we were only a half-mile from the trailhead.  We continued down the hill in silence. 

Before I knew it I was at the end... or the beginning I suppose?... I collected the last bait station and we crossed the creek in our shoes. We all piled into the car and headed back.  They slept on the way home and that was ok with me because I felt the urge to hide within myself... marvel at the joy that I recently felt as I gallivanted from mountain to mountain for days on end.
...the end of things... things, even while appreciative, you still find tht you didn't appreciate as much as you should have.   

After we got home the skies finally caught my mood and the clouds let slip their hold on the rain.  It was ok... rain masks so much.   

Stephanne Dennis is an outdoor enthusiast extraordinaire. A highly skilled backpacker and apex predator specialist, she shares her love of the outdoors with her unrivaled writing skills and her faithful companion, Bandit McKaye, her Anatolian Shepherd. She is currently studying Wildlife Biology at Oregon State University and dedicates her time and skills to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.

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